The European Parliament attended this week's 8th Parliamentary Conference on the WTO, an annual meeting of parliamentary delegations of WTO members who specialise in trade issues. "The Parliamentary dimension is of vital importance to increase the democratic legitimacy and transparency of the WTO," said Parliament vice-president Georgios Papastamkos at the opening of the conference, which brought together almost 300 participants from 70 countries.
The European Parliament and the Interparliamentary Union co-organised the meeting, which is in effect the most important parliamentary trade forum in the world. This year it was held year in Geneva on 15-16 November. EP vice-President Papastamkos, representing president Martin Schulz, made the opening speech.
He pointed out: "The multilateral trade system of the WTO, as an organised projection of globalisation, contributes to the strengthening of security and stability in international trade, and causes a spill-over effect of increasing economic interdependence to the international political cooperation."
Addressing the delegates, Mr Papastamkos added: "We must exert a constant scrutiny of what is negotiated on the citizens' behalf by governments to influence the negotiating process and make it accountable to our citizens. In such a conference in Geneva, our voices come together to amplify our message and have a global impact on the multilateral trading scene, where negotiations often take place very far from our capitals."
Explaining how trade must be part of the response to the crisis, Mr Papastamkos noted: "One can find everyday people suffering and struggling to make ends meet. As politicians we need of course to respond to this situation! Trade is part of the answer."
The closing statement of the conference expressed the delegates' deep concern at the protectionist measures adopted by countries in the wake of the crisis, as well as at the lack of progress in the Doha round of WTO negotiations to liberalise global trade.